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Op-ed: Utahns must act to keep the water flowing
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Remember when we all learned about the water cycle in junior high earth science class? Water falls from clouds in the form of rain, snow and ice.

Gradually it gets absorbed into the ground or runs off into ponds, lakes, oceans and other assorted swimming holes. Eventually it evaporates, and ascends into the sky where it coalesces into new clouds, and everything starts all over again.

Simple in concept but essential for life on earth.

Last November there were two front-page news articles that addressed the effects of climate change on the water cycle.

One was in the Salt Lake Tribune and dealt with the frightening prospect of Utah's water resources drying up. The other was in the New York Times and focused on the precarious future of the world's food production.

Then we witnessed the opposite extreme, an ominous example of what happens when the water cycle runs amok, in which storm clouds metastasize over an ever-warming ocean, when typhoon Haiyan, the most powerful tropical storm on record, slammed into the Philippines with sustained winds of 190 miles per hour and gusts up to 235 mph, killing thousands and destroying whole cities as if they were built of toothpicks.

Closer to home, on Jan. 6 the New York Times wrote, "A brace of global-warming studies concludes that rising temperatures will reduce the Colorado [River's] average flow after 2050 by five to 35 percent, even if rainfall remains the same—and most of those studies predict that rains will diminish."

Our democratic process is a lot like the water cycle. When it is functioning properly, the voice of the people, like water vapor, ascends to the powers on high. In response to what government absorbs from the ground — from the grass roots — policy and law are formulated, which are then returned to the public.

And so the sequence is completed and progress is made, one interdependent part of the cycle replenishing the other.

The two imperatives are: 1) the people must speak; and 2) the government must listen and act. If either the people or the government abdicates these basic responsibilities, then the cycle is disrupted, perhaps irreparably. When it comes to climate change, the people have spoken, science has spoken, and churches have spoken in voices that are quickly becoming resoundingly unison.

As Henry Eyring, a renowned theoretical chemist and devout member of the LDS Church, once stated, "For me, there has been no serious difficulty in reconciling the principles of true science with the principles of true religion."

It is now time for public officials to listen and to act, to not permit our natural and political aquifers to run dry, because for the natural cycle to work the political must flow as well.

Regardless of its state — solid, liquid or gas — water is water. Likewise, regardless of the state — president, senator or dogcatcher — citizens are citizens. We are all accountable for the future.

Gerald Elias, a Salt Lake author and musician, is a member of Citizens Climate Lobby.

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